Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Great Ocean Road sure is!

TUESDAY APRIL 29th – Great Ocean Road Trip from Adelaide to Melbourne

The beginning... flat terrain.
For the trip back to the boat we decided to hire a camper van, and we did it so that there was no 'one way fee' by choosing a van that has to be relocated from Adelaide to Melbourne anyway. Doing it this way, it cost us a mere $1 per day, plus $20 each for a Manchester package, plus petrol, and even then we were refunded $50 of that. The rental came with a few conditions such as, we couldn't actually choose the date it was to be collected from Adelaide so we had to be ready when a van came up and the trip wasn't to take longer than 2 nights (unless we wanted to pay an extra $75 per day). That was fine by us.

We collected the van at about midday and bought supplies then headed off up the freeway towards Mount Gambier. It was a fairly unspectacular trip for the most part and there really wasn't a lot to see for a while and so a lot of chat was had. We took a lunch stop in Tailem Bend, where we found a most excellent bakery that made really tasty pies and who gave us FREE DOUGHNUTS for our journey. Right across the road was a playground with the most awesome toy in it.... a full sized steam train. How much fun would it be for kids to scramble over that and a good couple of generations had done so. I reckon stuff like that beats these 'cotton wool' playgrounds any day.

A couple of hours later I took over the driving while Dave took a nap. I was going to drive for an hour or so and then he'd drive for an hour but before my hour was up we began losing daylight and the threat of kangaroos on the road was really kind of disturbing considering that we had foregone insurance cover and those kangaroos can't drive for toffee. I pulled us off the road for the night at a small carpark in Padthaway. It was so COLD and the public loo was 400 metres away but at least we weren't in the back of beyond and even more luckily, I didn't clap eyes on the gigantic wood moths when I visited the facilities until Dave pointed them out... oh...yay. They decorated the walls like ancient, forgotten Christmas decorations, brown and fuzzy and just downright icky, just waiting to flap their brown, fuzzy ickiness right in my face. Luckily most of them were in the men's toilets, which was also lucky for the wood moths because I'm sure they wouldn't have enjoyed the involuntary high pitched keening that would have escaped my throat had I seen them hanging over me whilst I sat frozen on the loo, and particularly knowing their penchant for occasionally tucking themselves surreptitiously under the toilet seat. Needless to say that one visit that night was enough.

The following morning we made an early start to try and get as many miles up before we stopped along the Great Ocean Road and were very glad to get the heater cranked up. We trundled along the Riddoch Highway beneath the pink dawning sky, listening to early morning ABC and keeping an eye out for stop out roos when Dave suddenly said “Look!”. There, to our left, and with no warning whatsoever, was an open space with large, carved tree stumps in it. Dave hit the brake and we swung in through an opening. It turns out we were nearing Penola, the domain of Mary MacKillop and Roman Catholic priest Father Julian Tenison Woods (of whom I'd never heard but I assume he was someone important in the area) . The carvings had been done by sculptor Kevin Gilders in 2010 and were very clever considering they'd been done with a chainsaw. My apologies for the photos though. It was still very early and the sun was behind them. 

PHOTOS: Sculpture Park near Penola.



After that short interlude we carried on, wending our way ever closer to the Great Ocean Road or as I shall call it from now on.... the 'GOR'. And just for my sister Barb, we passed by “CHEESEWORLD” but I didn't get a chance to stop. They should have done a monument to that too.... “all hail cheeses for thou art delicious in all your virgin creaminess!”


The first place we stopped along the GOR proper was “Boat Bay” and if this was just the beginning, I knew that I was going to be suitably impressed. Walking the couple of hundred metres to the lookout point, I was awestruck as the coastline appeared. High, craggy cliffs worn ragged over tens of thousands of years, giant sentinels standing alone, lost to the once substantial hold it had on the mainland, seeming still so solid but with each crashing wave bringing them a crumbling fragment closer to being reclaimed by the wild and unforgiving seas. 

PHOTOS: Boat Bay.

Then I turned around and saw the boat ramp. Yes, there was a boat ramp that was just insane! It requires anyone using the ramp to back down very slowly. It's steep, narrow and leaves no room for error and even when someone actually manages to get their boat into the water, the seas act like a thrashing machine, whipping the water into a turbulent frenzy. Small boats could be annihilated and bigger boats can't be launched because the ramp is too small. There are other, safer ramp up and down the coast so I'm not sure why anyone would actually use this. Apparently it's the only ocean access for boats between Port Campbell and Warrnambool and only maverick fishermen use it but beware, local tow truck companies won't respond to anyone stuck on this ramp since it's considered absolute stupidity to use it. 

The boat ramp!!! In-san-i-teeeeee!
Next we came to 'Bay of Islands' and more of the wonderful coast that makes up the GOR drive. I won't say a lot about the places we stopped, but rather just show some photos of just how majestic it all is. A little further on from the Islands, and as the world revolved just that little bit further towards sunset, we stopped at the 'Bay of Martyrs' and yet more spectacular coastline.

PHOTOS: Bay of Islands. 


PHOTOS: Bay of Martyrs.

Further still was The Grotto where we took a stairway down to beach level to a spot almost completely protected from the elements. Looking through the worn 'picture window' towards the deep ragged opening of the surrounding cliffs, waves crashed and foamed and pounded, yet inside the grotto the water lay still and calm and reflective. It was a wonderful, peaceful place and even the knee goblins didn't give me too much grief as I trudged down and then back up the stairs.

PHOTOS: The Grotto.


Next was London Bridge and yet more of the craggy coastline. Sadly half of the 'bridge' succumbed to the elements in 1990 but there is still quite a long way to go before it's lost completely to the elements.

PHOTOS: London Bridge 

We departed the 'Bridge' and trundled towards Loch Ard Gorge. Time was marching on quicker than we'd anticipated and we were becoming fairly certain that we wouldn't make it to the 12 Apostles tonight and so we stopped rushing about, which was just as well because we came across the Port Campbell Cemetery. There's nothing actually that special about the cemetery apart from the fact that it's right there, on the side of a hill at a T junction where one highway joins another. A cemetery devoid of fences or paths, where the headstones are set higgledy piggledy even though most of them are comparitively recent. This cemetery is one the likes of which I'd never really seen before. 

PHOTOS: Port Campbell Cemetery 


From there we reached our final destination for the day, Loch Ard Gorge. The site had many places of interest but we were running out of daylight. We just had enough time to take the 1km walk to Thunder Cave before we began to see the pink hues of sunset. Walking along the path through the bushland that grew adjacent to the coastline, we understood why it was called Thunder Cave. We heard it long before we saw it as the water rushed in and the waves broke deep inside the cavernous chamber. 

PHOTOS: Thunder Cave at Loch Ard Gorge. 

Panoramic view of Thunder Cave

Thunder in the cave!
On the way back to the van

As Night Falls at Loch Ard Gorge

By the time we walked back to the van, dusk was almost upon us so we took the opportunity to find a level spot in one of the parking bays and settle in for the cold, cold night. Even as daylight left and Dave and I considered what delicacies to have for dinner, soup or soup, people still arrived to see the sights. Eventually though, when full dark wrapped around us, only one other vehicle remained further down the car park and we figured they had also decided to stop for the night. We went to sleep with the sound of crashing of waves against the ancient shoreline. Tomorrow we visit the 12 (actually 7 now) Apostles. :)

Location: Port Campbell National Park, Great Ocean Road, Port Campbell VIC 3269, Australia
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